Enock Mpianzi's mother Anto, surrounded by family members, sheds tears during the memorial service of the Grade 8 pupil. Picture: Itumeleng English / African News Agency (ANA)
Enock Mpianzi's mother Anto, surrounded by family members, sheds tears during the memorial service of the Grade 8 pupil. Picture: Itumeleng English / African News Agency (ANA)

Forensic report finds Parktown Boys' High negligent in Enock Mpianzi drowning

By Sihle Mlambo Time of article published Mar 5, 2020

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Johannesburg - A damning forensic report stopped short of calling Parktown Boys' High School reckless for the death of 13-year-old pupil Enock Mpianzi. 

The pupil drowned at the Nyati Bush and River Break on the first day of school this year during a Grade 8 school camp. 

The forensic report compiled by Harris Nupen Molebatsi attorneys found that the principal, six teachers, the school and the department of education, were all negligent in the teenager’s death. 

PRINCIPAL

School principal Malcolm Williams was placed under precautionary suspension by Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi in January. 

The report recommended that disciplinary action be taken against Williams. 

Enock’s family members had told investigators that they felt they did not receive adequate support from the school regarding Enock going missing.

Williams could now find himself in hot water as the investigators recommended action be taken against him for being in breach of the school’s safety regulations. 

It also found him negligent in the handling of the following: 

  • The issue of roll calls and the accuracy of the roll call lists relating to camp attendees. 

  • The issue of safety and care of learners during the water exercise. 

  • The issue of life jackets for Grade 8 pupils. 

  • The issue of authorisation for the camp. 

  • Overall responsibility for the well-being and safety of learners on the camp. 

READ THE FULL REPORT:


ROLL CALL DISASTER

The forensic report confirmed that staff members had left a roll call indicating the number of boys on the camp on a school bus and did not know how many Grade 8 pupils were on the trip.

When teachers received a fresh roll call via e-mail - one which included the entire Grade 8 2020 intake - it was found that 11 boys including Enock were not on the trip. 

Unsure if a boy was missing after the water activity disaster, school receptionists back in Johannesburg were tasked with phoning parents/guardians of the 11 boys to confirm if indeed they were on the trip. 

“As a result of the incorrect list being used for the roll call, it was found that eleven learners were missing and after asking the learners and facilitators whether anybody was missing, it was assumed that the eleven missing learners were learners who had not attended the camp. This was an incorrect assumption. 

“Thereafter, it was business as usual and the Grade 8 learners were then taken out into the veld for their sleep-out. The next day, Thursday 16 January 2020, the learners at the camp continued with the activities as per the camp agenda. It was left to the enrollment office of the school to phone around to the parents of the missing eleven learners, referred to above, who eventually confirmed, after speaking to the parents of Enock Mpianzi, that Enock Mpianzi was definitely an attendee at the Nyati Camp. 

“It was only then, at approximately mid-day of the day following the water exercise, on Thursday 16 January 2020, that searches and emergency procedures were activated and the alarm was sounded,” the forensic report read.

TEACHERS

There were seven teachers on the Grade 8 camp - Ms Stacey Reynolds, Mr Kyle Reddy, Mr Laurian Kruger, Ms Celiwe Mbuyisa, Mr Tshepo Ratala, Mr Jarred de Jong and Mr Alex Meintjes. Only de Jong has been exonerated of any wrongdoing among the seven teachers.

The six teachers were not present at the river side when the water activity was taking place, the report found. 

“It is found that the educators on the camp (excluding Mr de Jong), including the principal, Mr Williams, are in breach of this provision (Parktown Boys' High School Safety Policy to ensure the safety of pupils during activities) in that they did not supervise the water activity from beginning to end. 

“In fact, the educators arrived at the river after thirteen of the fifteen groups had already, or were busy, undertaking the water exercise. On the version of the seven educators who were at the camp who were interviewed, at the time they got down to the water exercise, they were only able to observe the last two groups going down the river. As such, it is found that those educators were in breach of the School Safety Policy,” the report found.

Reynolds, Reddy, Kruger, Mbuyisa and Ratala were found negligent of the following: 

  • The issue of safety and care of learners during the water exercise. 

  • The issue of life jackets for Grade 8 learners. 

  • Lack of control over the learners. 

“Ms Reynolds, Mr Reddy, Mr Kruger, Ms Mbuyisa and Mr Ratala are all employees of the SGB, accordingly it is recommended that the Gauteng Department of Education direct the School Governing Body to proceed with disciplinary action against those educators,” it was recommended. 

Meintjes was found negligent of: 

  • Failing to exercise the duty of care. 

  • The issue of the roll calls and the accuracy of the roll call lists. 

  • The issue of the authorisation for the camp. 

The report recommended the department institute disciplinary proceedings against Meintjies.

SCHOOL

The school was found negligent ‘if not reckless’ for allowing pupils to enter the river without life jackets. The report found that the school was insured by Hollard and called on the school to determine its liability. 

“In view of the issues and findings contained in the sections above in this report, in relation to the role played by the principal and educators of the school, we find that there is an element of contributory negligence in respect of the circumstances that, ultimately, led to the death of Enock Mpianzi. 

“The SGB is found to be responsible in relation to the camp taking place without the requisite authorisation. In addition, given the history at the school in relation to the lack of supervision at school camps, which is so necessary, and giving consideration to the provisions of the PBHS Safety Policy, the SGB should have ensured that the school management placed the necessary emphasis on taking steps to ensure that the Grade 8 learners were supervised at all times. “Similarly, the SGB should have made the appropriate enquiries to ensure that the safety of the learners at the camp received the necessary attention. Accordingly, the SGB is found to have acted negligently in relation to the failure to obtain authorisation for the camp and also for the inadequate oversight at the camp,” the report found. 

Meanwhile, education department officials who had handled the schools request for the trip have also been found negligent. It was recommended that disciplinary action be taken against them. 

THE CAMP

Investigators also found the Nyati Lodge reckless, and negligent in respect of safety and care for pupils, the issue of life jackets and the route used during the water activity.

"HNM recommends that Nyati should be held responsible, and liable, for its negligent and reckless actions that contributed to the circumstances that led to the death of Enock Mpianzi," said investigators. 

One pupil also told investigators that some of Nyati's facilitators could not swim. 

The pupil told investigators when recalling what had transpired in the river: “I went myself and went to facilitator 1 and told her that there are people struggling and please could she come and help us. We are down by the island, and she came with me to the island. She however said that she could not swim and then called another facilitator on her phone for help".

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